Michigan House Dems propose legislation to incentivize home solar and batteries

The bills would offer utility rebates for solar and battery storage and require operators to recognize those systems as grid assets. Low-income customers would receive higher incentives.

Two bills introduced into the Michigan House Thursday aim to incentivize solar and battery storage systems in Michigan through rebates and grid connectivity, emphasizing access for low-income customers.

Under House Bill 4840, customers who install solar and battery storage would be eligible to receive rebates of $500 per kilowatt for solar systems and $300 per kilowatt-hour for batteries. Those rebates would be doubled for low- and middle-income families. The rebates would be provided by electric service providers. 

Creating incentives for low-income customers to invest in solar and battery storage is important for building “solar freedom” and energy equity, according to John Delurey, a director with the group Vote Solar that advocated for the bill.

“We believe people deserve the right to power their homes however they want; solar freedom is important,” said Delury. “But that choice is a little easier for people with discretionary income to go solar, invest in a battery, and invest in their home. And so we believe this is important to ensure everybody can access these resources.”

Low-income neighborhoods are often served by older, more vulnerable electric grid infrastructure and are hit harder by power outages.

“We believe that it is important for the entire energy grid to send solar and batteries to low-income communities because that is where the energy grid is often most outdated or most in need of upgrades,” he said. 

The rebates would also help people who rely on electricity for medical needs, according to Dr. Laura Sherman, nonprofit advocacy group Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council President.

“This is trying to focus on the folks who really can’t afford these technologies but have critical needs for electricity like keeping medicines cold,” Sherman told Planet Detroit. “Enabling families, including those most vulnerable to outages in low-income communities, to invest in solar and battery storage systems will allow these individuals to generate their own power and support the grid.”

Delurey recognizes that the incentives are modest, particularly considering the high solar and batter storage costs.

“Neither incentive pays for the system outright; neither is high enough to receive a free solar system or battery,” he said. “But it creates new pathways for innovative financing and opens up new channels for people to access these resources.”

A second bill, HB 4839, would require the Michigan Public Service Commission to establish rules that allow solar and battery storage systems to operate as virtual power plants that provide grid services such as load reduction, demand response, and voltage support. Such rules could enable owners of distributed energy resources like solar and battery to receive payment for such services.

It’s unclear how much support these bills will get outside the Democrat-controlled House. No Republicans signed on to sponsor either bill. 

Investor-owned utilities have expressed a lack of support for distributed generation resources like homeowner-owned solar and batteries. DTE spokesperson Brad Carroll said the company is reviewing the proposed legislation and has no comment.

The bills follow three House bills introduced on June 14, also sponsored exclusively by Democrats, that would pick up the pace for Michigan’s renewable energy standard, empower the MPSC to consider climate and energy equity, and ramp up energy efficiency in low-income areas. 

HB 4759 would set a renewable energy standard for Michigan of 60% by 2030 and a 100% carbon-free energy target by 2035, placing Michigan among the fastest states to decarbonize. HB 4760 would allow the Michigan Public Service Commission to consider climate and energy equity in its decisions, such as in rate cases and integrated resource plans. And HB 4761 would add new energy efficiency rules for utilities and require them to prioritize lower-income communities in energy efficiency projects.

The bills follow two pro-solar Senate Bills introduced earlier this year with bipartisan support. In March, two tie-barred bills were introduced in the Michigan Senate – SB 152 and 153– enabling community solar in Michigan. And in May, Senate Bill 362, which would remove the “solar cap” or cap on participation in distributed generation (DG) programs run by utilities, was introduced in May. 

For Delury, these bills are about catching Michigan’s distributed energy development up to other Great Lakes states.

“Michigan is so far behind where it should be and where neighboring states are – Illinois and Minnesota have been incentivizing people to go solar for years. We think that customers are increasingly demanding access to these resources. And that it benefits the whole grid to have a distributed energy system,” Delury said. “This is long overdue.”


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